Expert Witness Secrets

What factors lead to a patient suing a doctor?

January 12, 2022 Season 4 Episode 23
Expert Witness Secrets
What factors lead to a patient suing a doctor?
Show Notes

In order to understand some of the motivation behind what leads to patients starting the litigation process and suing their doctors, I want to draw upon my personal experience as an expert witness, along with my personal experience as a patient, and put in a situation where I was considering litigation. And I want to combine those two together to give you the experience of what's really getting down to the absolute core of frustration and anger, that often is the precursor or the motivating factor to initiate litigation in the first instance. So let's think about this for a moment. We've got a doctor on the one hand, who's got tons of experience and knowledge, picking up huge amounts of knowledge on their journey in their careers as a doctor versus a lay person who might have access to Google, colleagues or friends that have had similar procedures or similar experiences. And they're comparing notes, and they're looking online. Let's be frank, that's what they're doing right now. And they come up to this whole process for treatment with that level of knowledge versus what doctors have, in comparison, a huge disparity, a huge gap, between the two. And just by acknowledging that, in the first instance, will make us understand why there's such a vast amount of litigation in medicine today. This disparity of knowledge is going to be one of the key factors when a patient doesn't understand or does not feel like their opinions have been heard. They are going to feel like they were having treatment done to them rather than being part and parcel of the consent collecting process. The valid consent that a patient needs to provide in order to have treatment is a combined interaction and communication between two people that leads to an understanding to an extent to which they can make an informed decision. That is a process. The real harsh reality is that for the most vast majority of clinicians, there is inadequate resources and time to be able to collect that informed consent to be able to obtain that from a patient in a way in which they truly have provided an informed decision. And that we've got to accept that this is where we are today. There's a huge amount of underlying issues with regards to lack of resources, lack of time to be able to do this process. And that's not going to be one of the key factors. It's led to a huge amount of litigation right now. So I think to address that well as identify it is to be able to acknowledge that the communication, the consent process has to be of a really high an increasing quality as your practice evolves, so that your patient is truly making an informed decision understanding the benefits and risks of each of the alternative treatments, and making a decision based on that. So my personal experience was that the consent part of the process for a surgical procedure was obtained about 30 minutes before my actual procedure for which I was going to be put under general anaesthetic. So I am lying in a hospital bed, about to have a procedure. And I've been presented with a four or five page detailed consent form. Now, that is, at the time, something that I thought was the process, that's just the way that these things are done. And the post operative experience that I had was terrible. There was a huge delay to recovery based on the information I've been given. And so I was looking back to the point at which I consented to the treatment and thought, was I truly involved in all of the risks, but was all the risks of this procedure explained to me at a point in which I could consider them not an hour before the procedure, but that's days or weeks beforehand, to decide that something that's a risk I'm willing to take versus the benefit of having that particular procedure. And the answer was no, I didn't have that. I didn't see this particular procedure process through in terms of litigation. But it was a reminder of what is the underlying issue with regards to what causes the frustration, I di